U.S. ‘Self-Removal’ from Trade Game Said to Hurt Agriculture

  • Consequences include rivals shaping trade, group says
  • U.S. entered 4 trade deals since 2010, outpaced by others

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The Biden administration and Congress are neglecting to advance a “proactive” U.S. trade agenda, leaving the agriculture industry’s competitive edge in foreign markets at risk, a new report says.

The Corn Refiners Association argues that a recent bipartisan disinterest in establishing formal trade deals puts U.S. agricultural exporters and others in a tricky situation, as they depend on expanded access to international markets.

The findings echo concerns from others in the broader U.S. agriculture industry that the government isn’t moving fast enough on trade matters, harming their competitive edge.

The U.S. has finalized only four trade agreements since 2010, the corn refining industry association said. By contrast, China has established 10 agreements, the European Union has entered eight, and Canada has formed eight.

Both China and the EU are also taking advantage of lower duties and fewer barriers due to their respective comprehensive agreements over the past decade, according to the report.

Consequences of the U.S. government’s “self-removal” from the global trade landscape include potential partners moving on and rivals shaping trade practices, the Tuesday report says.

The Biden administration’s current agenda centers around the enforcement of existing pacts, including the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and Phase One of the U.S-China Economic and Trade Agreement, CRA said, adding that Trump-era negotiations with the U.K. and Kenya haven’t persisted.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Corn plants in a field near Tiskilwa, Illinois.

‘Growing Unease’

Across the industry, various members recently told Bloomberg Government they’re worried about access to foreign markets.

“There is growing unease within U.S. dairy for the lack of attention being paid by Congress and the Administration to the trade agenda—knocking down unfair barriers, growing existing markets, and developing new relationships with trading partners,” said Matt Herrick of the International Dairy Foods Association.

Farm Groups Irked by Sluggish Pace on Agriculture Trade Nominee

Robert DeHaan, vice president of government affairs at the National Fisheries Institute, pointed to U.S. seafood exporters who’ve lost competitive access in major markets, such as Japan and China, for more than 10 years.

“As a result, our exports have declined to a level not seen since 2010, while other major international competitors have all experienced significant growth,” he said.

North American Millers’ Association President Jane DeMarchi said there are “many issues that need urgent attention” in the trade sphere.

Farm groups have pressed for the Senate confirmation of President Joe Biden’s nominee for chief agricultural trade negotiator, along with a nomination for the Agriculture Department’s under secretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs. Both officials would serve as federal voices advocating for American agriculture issues on a global scale.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has made some progress since she was confirmed in March, but the corn refining industry association says other countries are moving faster.

The U.S. and the EU reached a deal on Trump-era steel and aluminum tariffs in October. The U.S. and Japan announced the launch of a trade partnership in late November.

To contact the reporter on this story: Megan U. Boyanton in Washington at mboyanton@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloombergindustry.com; Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com

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